Inbox: Who grabs final bullpen slots?
Beat reporter Marty Noble answers fans' questions
From what I read, Jon Niese will probably fill in the fifth spot in the rotation and Fernando Nieve will pitch in relief. If it really goes that way, two scenarios appear likely to me: Bobby Parnell in the bullpen and Nelson Figueroa on waivers, or Figueroa kept in the bullpen and Parnell sent to Triple-A. What do you think will be the actual scenario? Do you think the Mets can afford to lose a dependable starting pitcher that is in good shape in Figueroa? And what about Hisanori Takahashi? He seemed very good at times this spring.
-- Alex S., Parma, Italy
My sense of it is Figueroa serves as the staff saver, Parnell goes to Triple-A to work on offspeed pitches. Takahashi serves as the other left-handed pitcher in the 'pen.
It's not going to happen, but wouldn't it make sense for the Mets to work a deal with the Red Sox for Mike Lowell to platoon at first base? He is obviously on the block, and potential trade partners seem to be dwindling. He's limited defensively, but he is an absolute pro and his bat still has value.
-- Pete. B., Chatham, N.Y.
I like the idea, but Lowell is owed $12 million for 2010, more than any club will pay for a reserve player. He wouldn't have to play much third base with the Mets unless David Wright went down, and if that were the scenario, neither he nor Fernando Tatis would be used there.
And this comes from Ian Browne who covers the Sox for MLB.com: "Lowell still hasn't regained the mobility from the right hip surgery he had in October 2008. He is moving a little better than he did last year and should be OK at first base, but he doesn't seem to have the range to play third on a consistent basis anymore.
"He has very good hands and instincts for first, so it hasn't been much of a transition for him. As of today, he has only had 10 at-bats this spring because he had right thumb surgery in late December. That injury is no longer an issue. It just got him off to a late start. He fouled a ball off his left knee a couple of days ago, so that kept him out of the lineup for a couple of days. He should be back in there Monday."
We've heard a lot of concerns about the starting pitching, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes. But how is Luis Castillo? He played a solid second base last year. Is he going to be able to stay healthy and at least duplicate his performance from last season?
-- Brian O., Gilbert, Ariz.
I'm not sure anyone on our planet can forecast Castillo's health and availability. I thought his defense last season was lacking in terms of range. I can't expect it to improve dramatically, but it may improve because of some drills he has executed down here in Port St. Lucie, Fla. I suspect his offense will be comparable to what it was in 2009. If Castillo bats second regularly, he will have greater value.
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How does Russ Adams fit into the mix for the Mets? He's a former first-round selection who has shown some signs of talent. He drove in 68 runs as a rookie. He's hitting well this spring. What's his outlook?
-- C.J.W., Copperas Cove, Texas
If Reyes is not active for Opening Day -- that seems unlikely at this point -- Adams could serve as the backup middle infielder. His time in the big leagues almost certainly would end with the return of Reyes. Ruben Tejada could fill that role, too. But the club isn't anxious to "start the clock" on Tejada for the sake of a few days. And the Mets do like Adams' bat. The problem is they see him more as a second baseman than a shortstop.
Is there any chance that the Veterans Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame will vote to induct Keith Hernandez in the Hall in 2011? I know that must be a long shot.
-- J. Lang, College Point, N.Y.
In 2011, I doubt it. But Hernandez ought to be one player they do review. He was the best at what he did -- playing first base -- for more than a decade. He was an MVP once (1979), should have been again (1984 when the Cubs had a half dozen players with career years) and received the most MVP points in the National League from 1984-88. Moreover, he played in more victories than any player in the league from 1979-88 and was the primary fuel for the team that won the most games from 1984-89. And a statistical comparison to Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson favors Hernandez. They were essentially the same type of players.
With Niese seeming to have locked up the fifth rotation spot and Figueroa getting the "staff saver" position as you reported, where do you see Nieve and Takahashi ending up?
-- Kevin G., Astoriam N.Y.
In the big league bullpen. The club recalls how well Nieve performed last summer before he injured his leg, and it has a need for a second left-handed reliever, particularly one who throws strikes (Takahashi's performance Saturday notwithstanding).
What happened to Nick Evans? He was with the Mets the past two years for a while. I thought he might have had a chance to compete with Tatis as a bench player. Is he hurt, in the Minors or in the doghouse? Will the Mets really keep Tatis?
-- Jimmy P., Duncannon, Pa.
Evans was assigned to the Minor Leagues last week. The Mets regard Tatis as a more versatile player. The club's diminished need for right-handed hitting undermined Evans' chances.
I have heard that Daniel Murphy played second base throughout the Minors and was wondering why he can't take that position over again so the Mets could promote Ike Davis for this year.
-- Chris M., Albany, N.Y.
Murphy was a third baseman in the Minor Leagues. He played second in the Arizona Fall League in 2008, but no one thought he should spend more time at that position.
What are the Mets going to do with Pat Misch? He has pitched amazing over the spring, but it sounds like they are just going to cut him.
-- Ryan R., Central Square, Mass.
Except for the cases of rookies -- see Jenrry Mejia -- performance in Spring Training is not considered a telling factor by manager and general manager as they put together their roster. In the Mets case, Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya are likely to put more weight on what they know from other years about a journeyman like Misch than anything done in exhibition games. The likely course of action will be to wait until the last moment to outright Misch in hopes that other clubs won't have room for him either. Then they can store him at Triple-A until a need develops.
Have you considered writing a memoir about your experiences as a beat writer? You could probably fill a few hundred pages with great anecdotes and an autobiography of sorts.
-- James K., Garden City, N.Y.
Thank you. But I have other responsibilities for now. Some day, when my fingers -- the four I use to type -- are less weary maybe I'll take a shot at it. I have the working title for it: "Baseball For The Short Attention Span."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.